I simply cannot resist TAAHH’s blog hop asking us to showcase our first horses!
I was a certified barn rat when I was a kid, spending as much time as possible at the barn, working off lessons, grooming at shows, and sitting on as many horses as my trainer would allow me to toss a leg over. Old, young, crazy, quiet… whatever. If it had 4 hooves and a tail, I was happy. In those days I rode at an A show hunter/jumper barn, and as the years went on it seemed like all of my peers got their own horses. I had a couple lease horses for a while, but mostly I just rode whatever sale horses we had in the barn at the moment. I fell in love with one in particular, and when he was sold to another girl in the barn I was pretty devastated. Enter Charlie.
Although that wasn’t his name to start with. This tall, scrawny, neurotic TB had come from one of the horse trader guys that my trainer got a lot of his sale horses from. Who the heck knows what the horse’s backstory was, or how he ended up with a horse trader. He was bodyclipped (really badly) when he arrived but he came with no name, so he was called T-4. The horse trader’s name started with a T, and whichever ones came without names usually got a number added on to the end. Except my trainer forgot that we’d already had a T-4, so really Charlie was T-4-II. Instead my trainer started referring to him as “the brown horse” which I morphed into Charlie Brown… thus Charlie. I started riding him right off the bat, and he proved to be quite the interesting horse. He was older, probably early to mid-teens, yet he acted like a horse that hadn’t been off the track for long. He weaved, he roared, he rushed the jumps, he ran off with me at least once per ride, and sometimes for funsies he’d go flying backwards when you put your foot in the stirrup to mount. He was quirky as hell.
But the horse could also jump, and he loved the job. Granted, getting him stopped at the end of the course usually required running him into something, but he would jump anything from anywhere and never touch a rail. This barn rat was smitten. The best part? Nobody else really wanted to ride him. I had him all to myself.
Eventually the pressure ramped up for us to either buy him or he was going to be shown to prospective buyers, and my parents agreed. He may have had more than a few screws loose, but he was mine, and that’s what really mattered to 16 year old me.
My trainer made me show him in the hunters and eq a few times (I can only assume this was for his own entertainment, because lord have mercy) before we switched over to the jumper ring. I preferred the jumpers anyway, so I was super happy with that, and Charlie brought home more than his fair share of tricolors.
After high school I moved to Maryland to be a working student, and Charlie came with me. I’m pretty sure he weaved for all 1500 of those miles on the Equine Express semi, because he unloaded looking absolutely skeletal and more than half-crazed. But he settled into pasture life in Maryland pretty well, and together we started learning the ropes of eventing. We went to Full Moon, and Jenny Camp, and Elysian Hills, starting at BN and then moving to N. I only had a jump saddle and all of my hunter show clothes, so we stuck out like a sore thumb, but we did it. Eventually we moved back home and tackled our first Training, where I literally fell off at jump #3 (a big table that he for some reason decided to bank, throwing me over his shoulder). In those days Training riders could get back on after a fall, so once someone caught my horse for me, I got back on and we finished the course. It was only when I got off afterward that I realized he’d stepped on me and I had cracked a couple of ribs.
Our dressage was always borderline hideous, and he legit had THE BOUNCIEST TROT of any horse I’ve ever encountered in my life, but that horse was nothing if not tryer. He taught me how to be brave, humble, patient, and persistent, but most of all he taught me what it was really like to love and appreciate a horse. He might not have looked like much to an outside observer, but he meant the world to me.
Over the years he mellowed a lot and seemed more settled with his life. Eventually Charlie went to the retirement farm when his hocks could no longer hold up to the job, and he got to live out his days with his best TB friend, eating all the grass he could possibly desire. One day he was found dead out in the field, likely of a heart attack or aneurysm, and seemed to have passed quickly and peacefully. He was buried beneath his favorite tree.
I always wonder where Charlie came from, what his story was, and what happened to him along the way, but mostly I’m just glad that he found me. Nothing would have been the same without that crazy old nut of a horse.